US presidential aspirant Joe Biden is credited with the saying: "Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." I wonder how much the Auckland Council emergency budget, to be decided today, will reveal about what council really values?
The budget represents an obvious crisis for council as it prepares for an expected $525 million revenue drop, as well as providing an additional $224 million to respond to the region's water supply crisis.
But from crisis opportunity is supposed to spring - as another politician, John F. Kennedy, exclaimed. However, to deliver this opportunity and to show Aucklanders real value, innovative decision-making will be needed from the council.
More than 10 years ago, the OECD said an organisation's innovation performance is a crucial determinant of making real progress and building long-term value. A more recent Accenture study said 84 per cent of leaders thought their future success was highly dependent on innovation; that is: implementing new or significantly improved services, processes or ways of working.
Yet the principle issue council asked Aucklanders in its recent budget consultation was how much are you prepared to pay?
What the council should have focused on is the vast array of new ideas that lockdown-induced webinars, member organisation surveys and life-with-Covid reports have furnished, which can chart a new, more valuable path for Auckland.
The council could help lead some of the Aotearoa Circle's Fenwick Report ideas including mainstreaming working from home with a projected 40 per cent reduction in travel emissions - as well as the productivity gains from improved peak time congestion.
Rather than just report on the climate impact of projects, as it currently does, the council could require a net-zero natural capital impact for all projects it funds to account for externalities and help transition to more climate responsible projects.
It could actively incentivise property owners to boost building energy efficiency to encourage upgrades above the existing minimum standards - which the Building Research Association of New Zealand also recommends.
The council could adopt the Committee for Auckland's Covid Recovery advice and not just reprioritise existing priorities but transform its existing approach and add new Covid-19-driven project opportunities. Committee of Auckland stakeholders, across its business and the not-for-profit sectors, said dealing with the economic and poverty-related challenges Auckland faces were higher priorities over the next year than transport or climate change.
The UN-Habitat's Readiness and Responsiveness platform tracks how well nearly 1200 cities are responding to Covid-19. Auckland is lagging in its economic responsiveness. To answer this, the council could address the findings of its own economic development agency's survey, which said more business planning, strategy and management advice was needed online. It could prioritise assistance to the 48 business associations across Auckland that council supports and partner with the innovative small business advisory website Manaaki, created in lockdown.
In the poverty area, a key priority is to work with government to prepare for the release of the hundreds of Auckland homeless who have been housed in temporary motel accommodation.
The multi partner-led Vision Week dialogue encouraged decision-makers to build back better, leverage technology much more effectively and use Kiwi-can do to be more ambitious about solving bigger problems more quickly.
To achieve this, the council should adopt the attitude of 80 per cent of the Committee for Auckland's stakeholders who think Covid-19 presents opportunities, or the 85 per cent of Fenwick Report senior leaders who said they would change or accelerate investment plans to collaborate for a bigger goal.
New Zealand's Covid experience may have created an economic chasm but it's been a mountain of idea generation.
Not enough of this has been an obvious part of the councils' emergency budget response.
Today, Auckland's political leaders have the opportunity to make more innovative decisions, to show the value that can be created in a budget from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
• Mark Thomas leads a smart cities business operating in Asia and is on the board of the Committee for Auckland.